Where can I find an NGO

Starting an organization - tips for your own NGO


A matter of definition: what is an organization?

As with many everyday terms, the commonly used definition of an organization does not coincide with a legal one. An organization is a collective term for institutions or associations: foundation, association, cooperative up to a non-profit society. From the English-speaking world there is also the term “Non-Government Organization (NGO)”: This describes a non-governmental organization that acts as a civil society interest group - regardless of a public mandate. In addition, there are non-profit organizations (NPOs) that can be translated as "non-profit organizations". So it is entirely up to you what type of organization you want to set up.


Know and learn: what know-how do you need?

If you want to set up your own organization, you will certainly not lack drive. However, founders in the social business should not rely on your natural talent. Your business model has good prospects if you can demonstrate both industry-specific knowledge and an entrepreneurial spirit.

Become an ambassador for your vision

Almost everyone wants to make the world a little better. But why should you support your purpose? Two factors are crucial: you need to know what you are talking about and generate emotions with your message. Only concrete, professional arguments convince investors and possible cooperation partners of your cause. So actively educate yourself and take part in the public debate on the topic of your organization. A blog, publications in relevant media or public lectures are instruments that underline your competence as an expert and give you credibility.

Communication skills and precise rhetoric open important doors for you. Regardless of whether you are on the phone, have personal conversations or speak in a public position in front of an audience: Take the opportunity to make a lasting impression. Use the technique of storytelling and create an emotional level that appeals to your audience.

Social Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurial Knowledge

Business start-ups bear responsibility in many ways. When you become self-employed with an organization, you are primarily responsible for all bureaucratic, financial and personnel decisions. There are numerous options for further training if you lack the entrepreneurial know-how. In addition to specialist literature, there are start-up seminars, courses in commercial fundamentals and workshops in the field of fundraising and social start-up. If in doubt, use your network of contacts and expert advice to make smart decisions.


Establish an organization as a foundation, e. V., w. V., gUG or gGmbH: choose legal form

Your business idea determines the later legal form. As the founder of an organization, all legal forms are generally available to you. However, the foundation, the non-profit or the commercial registered association, the gUG or the gGmbH are particularly popular for setting up an organization. When making your choice, note that the legal forms differ for tax purposes and that you should continue to choose the legal form according to your founding situation.

Establish an organization as a foundation

A foundation is an institution that pursues a specific purpose and uses its assets for this purpose. The founder determines the purpose and determines the foundation's assets. Although a foundation does not have to be a non-profit organization, most foundations are set up for charitable purposes. In most cases, the assets are preserved and the proceeds go exclusively to beneficiaries. A very broad distinction is made between operational foundations and funding foundations. The German Civil Code (BGB) regulates the framework for the legal capacity of a foundation.

Establish an organization as a non-profit registered association (e.V.)

An association is an association of natural and / or legal persons. The existence of an association is independent of the change of its members. A registered association is included in the association register and has full legal capacity as a legal person. Registered clubs do not pursue any economic intentions and are therefore among the so-called ideal clubs. Achieving a profit is not in the foreground, but the implementation of ideal purposes. A registered cooperative has similar requirements.
Advantages: Only two members need to be involved in the formation. For the entry in the register of associations, you need seven association members.
Liability: The association is liable with its association assets. However, there is no limitation of liability for club members.

Establish an organization as an economic association (w. V.)

Unlike registered associations, commercial associations with legal capacity are geared towards commercial operations. The association receives its legal capacity through state award (§22 BGB). After examination of the association's statutes by the competent authority, an award certificate is issued. The award is made by the federal state in which the association has its registered office.

Establish an organization as a gGmbH or gUG (limited liability)

Your social enterprise can be founded as a non-profit entrepreneurial company (limited liability) or a non-profit GmbH. These legal forms are particularly suitable for founders of an organization who want to set up a company with limited liability with little start-up capital. gUGs are popular as a form of company for social start-ups and smaller organizations.
Advantages: The non-profit business purpose defines the form of the company. Outwardly it can be seen that you are pursuing charitable, not economic purposes. Non-profit companies enjoy tax breaks.
Liability: Non-profit corporations are limited in liability and at the same time tax-privileged. Private assets are liable.

Further information on the possible legal forms:

In principle, there are of course other legal forms available to you.

Would you like to set up your organization as a corporation? We are happy to support you in every step.
gGmbH packages| gUG packages

Differences between societies and associations

In contrast to registered associations, companies have a managing director who represents their organization externally. Here, for example, a professional managing director can be employed, who often has more business know-how and, above all, more time than, for example, an association board, who is usually heavily involved in other areas of work and time. In this way you can quickly reach a completely different level on a professional level, but the managing director's salary is seldom easily financed at the beginning.
Another advantage of a gGmbH or gUG over an association is liability, because the liability of the shareholders is usually limited to the company's assets.
Associations are managed by boards of directors. Who has the actual decision-making power and is liable for damage is not regulated in many ideal clubs. In the most extreme case, members of the association are also jointly and severally liable with their private assets (Section 840 BGB).


Checklist: Where do you register your organization?

Registration in the commercial register as a non-profit organization

As a public directory, the commercial register documents entries on the registered merchants in the area of ​​a competent registry court. The corporate forms gUG and gGmbH require an entry in the commercial register.

Enter the organization in the register of associations

If you have your organization as an e. V., you must apply to your local court to be entered in the register of associations.

Business registration for non-profit companies

If you choose a gUG (limited liability) or a gGmbH, you need a business registration. After registering with the trade office, the tax office will automatically contact you for tax registration. The district court in whose district the association is based is locally responsible.

Exemption from membership of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Non-profit companies are not members of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and therefore do not have to pay contributions. Your Chamber of Industry and Commerce needs proof of non-profit status.

Employer's liability insurance association for company founders

Employers' liability insurance associations are the providers of statutory accident insurance for companies and their employees. Please register your organization independently with the administrative professional association. If you have any questions, the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) will help you on the phone number 0800 60 50 40 4.


Concept and business plan: How do you position yourself?

Regardless of whether you are planning a non-profit organization, a foundation or a donation-financed association: the formulation of your purpose is decisive. The purpose must be formulated as precisely as possible so that it is easy to understand and simple to explain. Approach a phrase with the help of these questions:

  • What do you want to achieve, change and achieve?
  • Who does your organization benefit? Who or what benefits specifically?
  • Is there a set goal, a clear mission?
  • Are there intermediate goals or milestones that you can specifically name?
  • How and when will these goals be achieved?
  • What means do you use to achieve the goal?
  • Which projects are planned?
  • Who are your members?
  • How do you get the funds?
  • What is your personal motivation?


Formulate a key message for your organization

Use these and your own key questions to formulate your business plan.

The easier it is to convey the vision of your institution, the more efficiently you can align all important decisions with this goal. Formulate a concise key phrase or motto that defines your organization.

If you have answered all these questions to your satisfaction and formulated a concept, you should come back to the question of the legal form. Think about which business model best suits your organizational purpose.

Tip: In particular, founders who want to set up an organization with a social, environmental policy topic are required to emphasize their motivation. So-called social entrepreneurs need idealism and perseverance in order to found a successful organization.

Are you looking for competent support for the smooth completion of the establishment of your organization? Then you have come to the right place - request a non-binding offer for founding a company now!

Financing: What costs do you have to take into account?

Establishing a non-profit organization based on the model of a lean start-up also requires start-up capital. Take the time to specifically calculate all costs incurred and list them in a financial plan. Possible cost items are, for example:

  • Start-up costs (for authorities and consultants)
  • Labor costs
  • Marketing costs
  • possibly shop rent and equipment costs for your place of business
  • other ongoing operating costs such as fuel and software licenses
  • Taxes
  • Insurance (e.g. social insurance, professional liability, commercial insurance)
  • Investment capital to reach your first milestones
  • Capital reserves to secure your livelihood


Time management for NPOs

Your most valuable asset is your time. Social media activities, calls and lobbying are time-consuming. Non-profit organizations do not make a profit, so you should make the most of your working hours. If you are aiming for full-time management of your organization, you should make a detailed cost-benefit analysis of your activities.

  • With which measures can donors / new members be activated?
  • Which activities have the most reach?
  • What activities are inexpensive and effectively?
  • Which activities are not appropriate but necessary for ongoing operations?

Always divide your time around your organizational goals.


Marketing: How do you draw attention to your organization?

Marketing is an item in your business plan that should not be underestimated. If you start an NGO and pursue a charitable cause, you depend on donations. To reach potential donors, you need visibility. Apart from a reputable and search engine optimized website, you should use the common social media channels.

Get active and talk to donors

Regardless of whether you implement your organizational goals through the work of your members or are dependent on donations: You have to take action yourself. Addressing your target groups directly is crucial, for example through:

  • Calls to possible cooperation partners and members
  • Promotion of calls for donations and fundraising events
  • Promotion of crowdfunding campaigns
  • Presence at trade fairs and events

If you are planning fundraising events and / or exhibition stands, you will need additional capital for equipment, marketing and personnel.

Become a donor yourself

Social entrepreneurs are often expected to provide support for other projects themselves. With partnerships you can achieve a great effect here: If you act as a serious donor and sponsor, prove your seriousness and trustworthiness. Potential investors will see you in a different light.


Fundraising: What funds are available to you?

In addition to the equity you have brought in, you are of course dependent on financial resources. Check if your organization qualifies for funding. You yourself could be supported by other organizations and foundations or win public money for yourself. Many private, state and international donation projects support new organizations. The European Commission, for example, supports NGOs. A list of the donation programs can be found here. In addition, there are many ways to meet your organisation's financial needs:

  • Membership fees
  • private donations
  • Involvement of investors
  • Grants
  • Crowdfunding
  • Loans or Loans
  • Guarantees

Find out thoroughly which financing options are possible and which suit your company's purpose.


The information published on our site is all written and checked by experts with the greatest care. However, we cannot guarantee the correctness, as laws and regulations are subject to constant change. Therefore, always consult a technical expert in a specific case - we will be happy to put you in touch.

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